The Classical Administrative School of Management

 Jones and George summarized the core principals of several of main theories associated with the “classical administrative school”.  They described Weber’s principals of bureaucracy as follows: 

  • Managers in a bureaucracy have formal authority which they derive from the position they hold in the organization.
  • Managerial authority is the legitimate power to hold people accountable for their actions and thus provides managers with the legal right to exert direction and control over the behavior of their subordinates.
  • Positions in a bureaucracy should be given to people based on their performance rather than social standing or personal contacts.
  • The formal authority and task responsibilities associated with each position in a bureaucracy, and the relationship of that position to other positions in the organization, should be clearly specified so as to ensure that everyone—managers and workers—understand exactly what is expected of them and can be held accountable.
  • Effective exercise of authority in an organization requires that positions be arranged hierarchically so that everyone knows who to report to and who reports to them.
  • Managers must create a well-defined system of rules (i.e., formal written instructions that specify actions that should be taken under different circumstances to achieve specific goals), standard operating procedures (i.e., specific sets of written instructions about how to perform a certain aspect of a task), and norms (i.e., unwritten, informal codes of conduct that govern how people should act) so that they can provide guidelines for effectively control behavior within an organization and increasing the performance of a bureaucratic system.

Jones and George commented that strong and skillful management was essential to making a bureaucratic system work and that poor management could quickly lead to the complex system of rules and procedures impeding operations and causing decision making to become slow and inefficient.

Jones and George summarized Fayol’s principles of management as follows: 

  • Division of labor: Job specialization and the division of labor should increase efficiency
  • Authority and responsibility: Managers have the right to give orders and the power to exhort subordinates for obedience
  • Unity of command: An employee should receive orders from only one superior
  • Line of authority: The length of the chain of command that extends from the top to the bottom of an organization should be limited
  • Centralization: Authority should not be concentrated at the top of the chain of command
  • Unity of direction: Operations within the organization that have the same objective should be directed by only one manager using one plan
  • Equity: Managers should be both friendly and fair to their subordinates
  • Order: Materials and people should be in the right place at the right time
  • Initiative: Subordinates should be given the freedom to conceive and carry out their plans, even though some mistakes may result
  • Discipline: Members in an organization need to respect the rules and agreements that govern the organization
  • Remuneration: Compensation for work done should be fair to both employees and employers
  • Stability of tenure of personnel: High employee turnover rate undermines the efficient functioning of an organization
  • Subordination of individual interests: Interests of employees should not take precedence over the interests of the organization as a whole
  • Esprit de corps: Promoting team spirit will give the organization a sense of unity

Finally, Jones and George emphasized the following points regarding Follett’s concerns about emphasizing the “human side of the organization” and encouraging managers to involve their subordinates in planning and decisions: 

  • Workers are the people who know the most about their jobs and they should be involved in job analysis and participate with their managers in the work development process.
  • Provided that workers have the relevant knowledge, they, rather than their managers, should be in control of the work process and the role of managers should be limited to coaching and facilitating.
  • Organizations should rely upon cross-departmental teams composed of persons from different functional departments to carry out required projects.
  • Leadership should be based on knowledge and expertise rather than upon formal authority given to a manager based on his or her position in the hierarchy.
  • Power and authority in the organization should be fluid and flow to those persons who are best able to assist the organization in achieving its goals.

Jones and George commented that Follett’s approach was considered to be quite radical during her time and clearly her principals flew in the face of much of what Taylor advocated in pushing organizations to adopt “scientific management”.  For example, scientific management had no place for worker input into job analysis.  Not surprisingly, most organizations operating at the time Follett was writing continued to embrace Taylorism; however, Follett’s ideas regarding “cross-functioning”, the creation and use of cross-departmental teams, are now commonly applied by managers and modern organizations also rely heavily on self-managed teams and empowerment initiatives that allow employees to contribute their knowledge and expertise.

Source: G. Jones and J. George, Essentials of Contemporary Management (6th Ed) (New York: McGraw-Hill Professional Publishing, 2014), Appendix A (“History of Management Thought”) to Chapter 1.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s